HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa has named former Commander of the Defence Forces (CDF) Retired General Constantino Chiwenga and Defence minister Kembo Mohadi as his deputies in Zanu PF – making it a mere formality their appointments as the country’s vice presidents.
Mnangagwa is yet to announce the two state vice presidents (VPs) but it is the norm that whoever are second secretaries in Zanu PF automatically become the president’s deputies in government.
The appointment of the two veteran security chiefs is Mnangagwa's second major decision as president after the Cabinet appointments, and will be critical to his future success.
"The President and first secretary of the ruling Zanu PF, Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, has today made two senior party appointments.
"General Constantino Guvheya Dominic Nyikadzino Chiwenga (Retired), as Vice President and second secretary of Zanu PF.
"Honourable Kembo C.D, Mohadi, MP, as Vice President and second secretary of the Zanu PF,” Mnangagwa’s spokesman, George Charamba, announced in a statement yesterday.
He told the Daily News On Sunday that yesterday's appointments pertain to Zanu PF only and not the State VPs – whose announcement is supposed to be made by the chief secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, according to constitutional provisions.
Sibanda was said to be out of the country, and would make the necessary announcement as soon as he gets back home.
After that, the two VPs will assume office when they take their oaths before the Chief Justice Luke Malaba or the next most senior judge available.
Mnangagwa's selection gives him an entire Presidium dominated by a genealogy of the armed struggle and the military.
This also gives Mnangagwa legroom to choose his running mate for the 2018 election.
Charamba yesterday said the delays in appointing the VPs were to allow a national search for an acceptable VP from the Zapu side in line with the 1987 Unity Accord.
He acknowledged that finding a suitable Zapu-side VP was a tough balancing act.
Mugabe and the late Zapu leader Joshua Nkomo signed a unity accord in 1987, leading to the integration of PF-Zapu and Zanu.
Under the unity pact, the former PF-Zapu provides one of the two VPs of the unified Zanu PF and another member of the presidium.
The accord came as a ceasefire document after Mugabe deployed North-Korean-trained Fifth Brigade to crush rebellion by ex-Zapu guerrillas. Government forces are accused of killing thousands of civilians in the crackdown which became known as Gukurahundi.
Charamba said Mnangagwa consulted extensively with war veterans and the Matabeleland political leadership and other constituents to avoid his Zapu VP appointment being viewed as arbitrary and capricious.
While Charamba declined to comment on the selection process, which he said was confidential, top government sources told the Daily News On Sunday that the Matabeleland political leadership and war veterans came up with a diverse five-member pool of ex-Zapu candidates after soliciting for nominations from appropriate sources.
The shortlisted front-runners included Mohadi, Speaker of National Assembly Jacob Mudenda, Obert Mpofu, Tshinga Dube and Simon Khaya-Moyo.
After consulting with the Matabeleland political leadership and war veterans, the Daily News On Sunday can report that Mnangagwa also assigned the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) units in the three Matabeleland provinces to go on the ground to glean perspective from rank-and-file.
Curiously, the intelligence unit came up with the same list of five shortlisted candidates.
After completing the assessment stage of the five candidates – which were said to be fraught with several problems – Mnangagwa then made his final selection decision, settling for Mohadi as a safe political option for him amid intense opposition from several quarters.
Mudenda and Zanu PF administration secretary Mpofu were ruled out because they occupied important positions, in Parliament and another in the Zanu PF presidium respectively, and were both ex-Zapu cadres. There were fears finding replacements would be problematic.
The Daily News On Sunday was told that Zanu PF spokesman Khaya-Moyo was ruled out because he was a political flip-flopper. He has been linked to all the Zanu PF factions at one point or another, first as Joice Mujuru's loyalist, then as Grace Mugabe's G40 lackey, and now as a Team Lacoste loyalist, a move that dented his political credibility.
Mohadi’s elevation comes as he was said to have been given "prosperity gospel", with critics pointing to his widely publicised consultations with self-styled Malawian prophet, Shepherd Bushiri.
“I am seeing you going higher and higher, nothing bad will happen to you, I am seeing promotion coming your way, I am seeing a crown on your head, because I am seeing the spiritual realm,” Bushiri said then while preaching to Mohadi, with the Zimbabwean minister continuously saying: “I receive, man of God.”
Bushiri claimed Mohadi was being targeted by rivals who were now lining up witch-doctors to stop his imminent rise.
The prophecy was widely interpreted in the context of Zanu PF's succession battle, amid speculation that the Cabinet minister would emerge a winner.
Chiwenga, 61, regarded by many as the power behind Mnangagwa, will replace the 75-year-old president as VP, while Mohadi, 68, the former Defence, Security and War Veterans minister, will replace Phelekezela Mphoko, who was expelled from the ruling party together with senior G40 leaders during the historic November 19 Zanu PF’s Central Committee meeting.
That Central Committee meeting also dismissed Robert Mugabe as party leader together with his wife Grace, and replaced him with the reinstated Mnangagwa, who had earlier been fired from both government and the party.
Chiwenga's mobile was unreachable for comment yesterday, while Mohadi was not picking up his phone.
The elevation of Chiwenga was expected especially after he retired as CDF last week when Mnangagwa reconfigured the security sector.
However, Mohadi was facing resistance from some sections within the Matabeleland provinces as they felt he was too junior to be picked for the VP’s post.
Former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) political commissar Wilfred Balen said Ambrose Mutinhiri was the most senior Zipra cadre and has the credentials to take up the VP post in accordance with the Unity Accord signed in 1987.
Zipra was Zapu’s military wing in the liberation struggle.
“From our side we believe (Ambrose) Mutinhiri is the most senior, even the president knows it. The concern from Matabeleland is that the party is now being considered as a regional party.
Zipra was operating from Zambezi to Limpopo, the same way Zanla was operating. We must not be regional. We don’t want someone, who will be put in power just to line his pockets, we want someone who has the will of the people at heart,” Balen, speaking on behalf of the Zipra cadres, told our sister publication, the Daily News.
“We have realised that it is becoming a trend that a VP is being appointed without consultations and this is an issue of concern considering that there is a Unity Accord in place signed between former president Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo.
“There should be consensus on who should be appointed. There is need for Zipra and Zapu leaders to sort out the issue; we don’t want people to choose for us the suitable candidate.
“It seems like we have taken one step forward and five steps backwards and that is why we are concerned. When it comes to the appointment of VPs, we are talking about both parties that fought during the war,” added Balen.
Mutinhiri is a decorated war hero with impressive liberation credentials.
He is a former diplomat, soldier and Cabinet minister.
Mutinhiri was the Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister until last month when he was cut loose by Mnangagwa when he announced his new Cabinet.